Shawna Stueck teaches grades Kindergarten through second grade at Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA).
The WIVA K-2 team recently participated in Jumpstart’s Read for the Record (RFTR) for the first time. Read for the Record is a national campaign that exists to promote and address educational inequities that often leave children unprepared for kindergarten, particularly the development of strong foundational literacy skills. Each year, the RFTR campaign selects a quality story that supports early literacy in young children, and schools across the country sign up to participate in reading the story and promote additional literacy activities in the child’s home environment through extension resources supplied to parents.
To make this event extra special, WIVA’s K-2 teachers reached out to the middle school teachers for several student volunteer recommendations. We needed very specific student volunteers—middle schoolers who were reliable, in good academic standing and solid readers who would also demonstrate solid leadership abilities and engage our young students respectfully and appropriately. Fortunately, we quickly received emails and phone calls from nine extremely enthusiastic and poised students!
As this was the first time the grades collaborated on this scale for a literacy project, you could feel the energy and excitement fill our virtual classroom! When the K-2 teachers began with introductions, one of the middle school students asked in the chat box, “Who is excited?” which was abruptly followed by a stream of “ME!”
Although there are many developmental differences between ages 5-7 and 11-13, we opted to focus on their similarities as an ice-breaker activity to start our lesson off. Because the story title was The Bear Ate Your Sandwich, we asked everyone to share their favorite sandwich on the whiteboard.
The K-2 and middle school students noticed that they had some answers in common. We also had a middle school teacher present to participate with us, as well.
The middle school students helped the K-2 teachers frame lesson objectives by listening patiently while we covered our Common Core ELA standards and our “I can…” statements. Then they helped provide further explanations when we covered key vocabulary words, discussed text features, and also introduced onomatopoeias, which were utilized in the story text. The K-2 students gained additional learning examples from the middle school students, but also got to show off to the older students what they did know and could do! Applause and praise were given out amply. There was such pride and positive collaboration across the board!
The middle school students read their assigned pages with precise rate and prosody. They made this lovely story come to life for our young readers from all across the state – students from different cities and diverse demographics all learning and working together! They paused to check for student understanding:
They stopped to encourage a prediction: Who was the narrator of this story?
At the end of the story, the K-2 students were encouraged to share who was actually the narrator of the story and if their prediction was correct. The middle school volunteers gave out heartfelt praise!
We finished the lesson with a story order activity in which students used their polling tools to privately select what came first, next, and last in story order. The K-2 teachers then picked a K-2 student who selected the correct answer to move the correct image to the corresponding order. The K-2 students were able to correctly identify the story order.
We closed our time together with an exit ticket for K-2 students and the extension activities for students and families. The middle school students used the chat box and microphones to also praise the K-2 students and thank them for the opportunity to come “down” to read to them!
Feelings of gratitude were felt by the students, learning coaches, and teachers. In addition to positive comments during the class, data from the exit ticket indicated immense positivity – 100% of the students indicated that they enjoyed the experience! They were able to correctly apply their “I can” statements with high efficiency, and additional comments provided included the following:
- So fun!
- I love school!
- Thank you, more stories!
- This was a great story!
- It was so cool and fun!
- Thank you for reading to me!
Currently, the K-2 teachers are developing additional shared reading and collaborative opportunities for the school year. If this experience was any indicator, all WIVA participants will continue to benefit from further academic and social collaborative opportunities. What a great way to also increase positive school culture!
Who says that there aren’t opportunities for student socialization and collaboration at virtual schools!